What’s Your Bit?5th May 2022
Do you ever get to the end of a week, a month, a year, in a kind of bedazzled state, and wondering if you’ve actually achieved anything for your efforts?
Last week, a client said to me “my work here is finishing. It’s been an amazing ride, but I’m not sure if I’ve achieved anything!” She was reflecting on an amazing journey with New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, leading her part of the organisation through one of the most tumultuous periods in the health sector’s recent history.
Imagine that. Putting in massive hours and a huge emotional investment into a cause you believe in, yet coming to an end without any real sense of achievement.
It doesn’t have to be like this. I think it comes down to the word ‘achievement’.
Go beyond ‘achievement’
If you’re looking for tangible achievements after doing or leading work on massively complex problems, you’re probably going to set yourself up for disappointment.
What if, instead, you asked yourself ‘what’s my bit?’ In other words, how can you best contribute to the longer storyline that’s at play here? What’s your contribution?
Another client recently took on a senior role with responsibility for leading system-wide change. He was drawn to the role because of the complexity of the challenge, and started with big aspirations for cracking the nut. A few months in, he became overwhelmed with the enormity of the task. And that’s when he began to reframe things. Rather than trying to solve the problem wholesale, he asked himself “what’s my bit?” He slowed it down, worked out the bit where he could make the most contribution, and got working on that. He’s now less hurried, more focused, and making real progress.
You don’t have to do it all. You just have to do your bit.
Be a good descendant
Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua.
I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.
This is a wonderful Maori whakataukī (proverb) that speaks to the idea of carrying the past with you into the future. When we understand the work that has been done before we came along, and the context in which it was done, we have a clearer connection to the longer storyline at play. We can be better informed in the present to make wise decisions that will shape what happens next.
Be a good ancestor
Roman Krzaric wrote a book called The Good Ancestor. It’s a powerful invitation to take into consideration the people who will follow in your footsteps. When we think about the future generations who will carry on this work, we, again, have a clearer connection to the longer storyline at play. We can be better informed in the present to make wise decisions that will shape what happens next.
When you consider how we can be a good descendant and a good ancestor, you can breathe out. You don’t have to do it all. You just have to do your bit.
It helps me to remember that the story I’m a part of has been going for a while, and will continue on long after I am gone. Remember, we are all fixed term.
Slow down, breathe out, and do your bit.